Organic, Biodynamic, Vegan, Natural…. Wines for a better life?

Prof. Dr. Monika Christmann, Institute for Oenology, Hochschule Geisenheim University; Dr. Matthias Schmitt, Institute for Oenology, Hochschule Geisenheim University

These days more and more consumers are interested in a “healthier” life style. As a result the number of such products in the various markets has grown dramatically during the last years. But can they keep their promises? Are they better or healthier? Let`s take a closer look:

  1. Organic Wines
    Already in 1991, the EU harmonized the rules for organic grape production. It took nearly 20 years before the production of organic wines was then subsequently regulated. Since 2012 the producers can use the letters ”organic wine” also in combination with the EU organic logo.
    The production of the grapes but also oenological practices, processes and treatments and the use of materials in particular additives and processing aids are strictly regulated. A main focus is for sure on the use of SO2 and GMOs. A positive and a negative list of materials and techniques will be shown.
  2. Biodynamic Wines
    No legal and binding regulations except from private organizations, where a certification by their rules is possible. In general, a gentle treatment and operations are supported. Processes that demand a high use of energy and raw material should be avoided. Physical methods should be preferred over chemical interventions. A positive as well as a negative list of materials and processes is also available.
    A sensory comparison of wines produced conventionally, organic and bio-dynamic did not show any differences.
  3. Vegan Wines
    Vegan is not identical with organic. All treatment agents of animal origin are banned and replaced by plant alternatives.
    Also, for these products there is no binding legal definition except of rules of private organizations.
  4. “Natural” Wines
    No specific legal definition as many different ideas and concepts are combined under this name.
    Sometimes the wines are defined by private associations with a certification process. Very often these products are influenced by a socio-political movement with environmental concerns but also the fear of agri-chemical residues.
    Nevertheless using a label or terminology that indicates „natural wines“ may not considered legally correct. Maybe a „new“category such as „Wine with little intervention“ would be more appropriate.


A legal definition only exists for organic wines. All other products are legally not described but can be certified by private organizations.
Looking to the past we can for sure see that the creation of these products was very important and helpful to rethink our activities in particular considering environmental impacts but also helping in lowering our material use in vitivini.
The question if the wines are of better quality and healthier remains still open.